United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

UNWTO SDGs Global Startup Competition

World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) (
United Nations / Multilateral body

    The UNWTO SDGs Global Startup Competition is the UNWTO programme supported by UNIN and 21 corporate and institutional partners to identify the most innovative startups whose projects help accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by companies and destinations. The worldwide COVID-19 outbreak has brought the world to a standstill. Against this backdrop, tourism's proven resiliency, dynamic nature and capacity to create jobs and increase inclusiveness, this programme calls for a cross-sector approach to boost sustainable development all over the world. Target audience: startups from all walks of life, from all over the world and all economic sectors.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    The Competition has followed the below calendar of execution: Call period: • 14 July 2020: Launch at the UNWTO Event within the High-level Political Forum • 14 July – 10 October 2020: Call for candidatures • 10 October – 22 December 2020: Evaluation Process by a technical committee comprised by partners of the programme. It was ensured that each startup was evaluated at least from 3 jurors of different backgrounds (public, private, sustainability, technology, tourism) • 23 December 2020: announcement of 35 finalists • 17 February 2020: announcement of winning startups (25 projects from 18 countries, covering the SDGs and all global regions) Programme of Benefits: From 2 March 2020 Startups are receiving: • Curated Mentorship Programme by partners such as Amadeus, BBVA, ClarkeModet, Google, IE University, Mastercard, Telefonica and the UNWTO Tourism Online Academy • Access to technological support by Amazon Web Services (AWS) Activate • Connection to Member States, partners of the competition and investors for opening the doors of funding and pilot projects opportunities • Inclusion in a UNWTO official publication on the Top 25 SDGs Startups • Pitching final event in a UNWTO forum in May 2020 within the framework of Spain’s International Tourism Fair • Eligibility to participate in additional innovation forums The programme will continue until summer 2021. Afterwards, winning, finalist and shortlisted startups will continue to be part of the UNWTO Innovation Network, meaning a careful follow up to provide support and track their impact on the advance of the SDGs.


    • Over 10.000 participants from 138 countries, covering all UNWTO Regions • TOP 5 SDGs per number of submissions: 1. SDG 8 - Decent work and economic growth 2. SDG 11 - Sustainable cities and communities 3. SDG 9 - Industry, innovation and infrastructure 4. SDG 3 - Good health and well-being 5. SDG 4 - Quality education • 28% of total submissions were women-led startups • TOP 10 Countries per number of submissions: 1. Nigeria 2. Spain and USA 3. India 4. Colombia 5. Kenya 6. Brazil and Uganda 7. United Kingdom 8. Ghana and Iran 9. France and Tanzania 10. Indonesia • 25 winners feature enough traction and proven business models and technologies. Currently, they are ready to partner and UNWTO will be able to provide an impact report after the end of the Programme of Benefits. • Other editions of the competitions have helped Top 100 startups to reach a compiled amount of over 74.5 million USD in funding support from partners of the UNWTO Innovation Network. Meet the winners here: shorturl.at/nNOQ1

    Enabling factors and constraints

    The most highlighting factors have been the support of the United Nations Innovation Network, from a set of collaborators that cover the whole array of stakeholders of the global tourism innovation ecosystem and the commitment of UNWTO Member States. It has ensured a successful sourcing of startups, diversity in their approach to the SDGs and high-quality projects. These same factors are allowing a strong Programme of Benefits to deliver impact on the SDGs.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The Competition is totally scalable: while being a global project, it is intended to provide not only benefits to global winners but to engage runner-ups and shortlisted startips from all regions and bring them into UNWTO Innovation Forums. In the same vein, pilot projects will be encouraged in local geographies, ensuring the adaptability of projects and a higher impact. The format is flexible both for beneficiaries and for partners. The Competition will have a second edition in 2021, to be launched in October in UNWTO’s General Assembly.

    COVID-19 Impact

    The worldwide COVID-19 outbreak has brought the world to a standstill. Consequently, the pandemic jeopardizes all of the progress achieved thus far in terms of sustainability. Against this backdrop, tourism's proven resiliency and dynamic nature can be harnessed to support and reinforce recovery. Given the sector's capacity to create jobs and increase inclusiveness, the Competition calls for a cross-sector approach to boost sustainable development all over the world (including other value chains such as agriculture, gastronomy, creative industries, etc.). In this regard, top startups help address challenges not only limited to the current pandemic but to global sustainability. It means, that they work to build resilience in the tourism sector, both advancing the SDGs and thinking even beyond 2030.

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    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    14 July 2020 (start date)
    14 July 2021 (date of completion)
    World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
    Other beneficiaries

    Beneficiaries: 25 winning startups from 18 countries and 35 finalists Collaborators: Wakalua by Globalia, Qatar Airways, Government of Colombia, Qatar National Tourism Council, Moscow City Committee for Tourism, Amazon Web Services Activate, Globant, ClarkeModet, Google, Amadeus, BBVA, Mastercard, IE University, Inter-American Development Bank Innovation Lab, Impact Hub, Telefonica, Plug and Play, Advanced Leadership Foundation, FarCo, MentorDay.

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    Contact Information

    World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)